White House accused of using private email accounts to escape scrutiny

If, say, Intel was unable to come with critical emails to meet the discovery demands of a lawsuit brought by, say, AMD, for the reason that some executives sent emails about company business over Hotmail or Yahoo instead of Intel's mail servers ... wouldn't you find that suspicious?

If, say, Intel was unable to come with critical emails to meet the discovery demands of a lawsuit brought by, say, AMD, for the reason that some executives sent emails about company business over Hotmail or Yahoo instead of Intel's mail servers ... wouldn't you find that suspicious? "It just so happens that some potentially incriminating evidence ... well, we don't know why but it seems we just don't have those."

You would. But that is exactly what the White House is claiming today, as is evident from this Washington Post report.

The White House acknowledged yesterday that e-mails dealing with official government business may have been lost because they were improperly sent through private accounts intended to be used for political activities. Democrats have been seeking such missives as part of an investigation into the firing of eight U.S. attorneys.

Administration officials said they could offer no estimate of how many e-mails were lost but indicated that some may involve messages from White House senior adviser Karl Rove, whose role in the firings has been under scrutiny by congressional Democrats.

No suprise, Democrats suspect this little bit of confusion wasn't exactly accidental.

Under federal law, the White House is required to maintain records, including e-mails, involving presidential decision-making and deliberations. White House aides' use of their political e-mail accounts to discuss the prosecutor firings has also fanned Democratic accusations that the actions were politically motivated.

And what would Karl Rover or others in the White House have to hide? The firing of the US attorneys, for one:

Scott Jennings, the White House deputy director of political affairs, used a "gwb43.com" e-mail account last August to discuss the replacement of Bud Cummins, who was dismissed as the U.S. attorney for Arkansas, according to one e-mail.

In another e-mail exchange revealed during the investigation of disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff, a White House official was described as warning that "it is better to not put this stuff in writing in [the White House] . . . email system because it might actually limit what they can do to help us, especially since there could be lawsuits, etc." Abramoff responded in an e-mail that the message in question "was not supposed to go into the WH system."

That's a pretty damning admission of intent to sneak around the laws.

But White House spokesman Scott Stanzel said there was a legitimate reason for the unofficial emails - trying to separate political business from official White House business.

The problem, White House officials said, is that the staffers did not receive proper guidance about what to do about e-mails that fall into a gray area between official and political business.

One White House lawyer, who spoke on the condition of anonymity under the ground rules of the briefing, said staffers are now being advised that if they have any questions about whether an e-mail is political or official, they should use their private accounts but preserve a copy for review by White House lawyers to see whether it needs to be saved under the Presidential Records Act.

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